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Holding the Government Accountable

Bush Legal Eagles Soar To Prestigious Private Roosts

Last week, Legal Times reported that Bush administration lawyers are finding lucrative jobs with private law firms and corporations, where salaries can reach "all the way to comfortably within seven figures," which is far higher than their government salaries. In the last several months, the article notes, more than a dozen executive branch lawyers have struck gold. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty is now a partner at Baker & McKenzie. Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand is now at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where her co-worker is former Bush counsel Reginald Brown. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Majoras became general counsel at Proctor & Gamble.

Of course, many of these officials came to the administration from the same top-shelf law firms and Fortune 500 companies, so we're merely witnessing a full turn of the revolving door. Before her government service, for example, Majoras was a partner at Jones Day. Former Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler returned to Sidley Austin, which counts at least five other ex-employees still working in the executive branch. Former Department of Homeland Security general counsel Philip Perry jumped back and forth between the administration and global powerhouse Latham & Watkins several times. He tells Legal Times that attracting clients to his firm gets easier with each jump. (Perry's rainmaking skills are no doubt aided by the fact that he is also Vice President Cheney's son-in-law.)

However, some of Bush's legal eagles are having a tougher time cashing in. Sunday's New York Times informs us that since resigning last August, Bush's scandal-tainted former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, hasn't been able to land a full-time job. By contrast, readers of this blog are all-too-familiar with the good fortune of Gonzales' predecessor, John Ashcroft.

POGO realizes that the revolving door is a complicated issue. People need to be able to earn a living, but government officials should not be allowed to cash in on their positions to the detriment of the public. Federal conflict of interest and ethics laws need to be strengthened so that a proper balance can be maintained.